I love to hear the amazing stories indie devs have to tell…
And apparently so do you!
This week we have indie developers Dudledok talking about their game Deep Space Mine.
If you’re new to this series then you need to know that the diary entry below is an unedited extract of the life of Dudledok, written by their developer, Alexander.
It’s an extract combined with their experiences to give you an insight into the daily battle of an indie dev.
Deep Space Mine started with a name.
But not this name…
Three months ago I was working at a creative advertising agency where I was wasn’t working on many games outright, but rather gamifying other experiences (mostly virtual reality installations).
One of the bosses wanted more games to be made and hired a designer to work with a few of us developers and come up with some ideas.
This is when a colleague of mine started to explain their idea which they had dubbed ‘Space Delivery’.
The spark of an idea
I can’t remember what their idea even was because this name immediately inspired me with an idea of my own: An exploration and discovery game based on delivering packages to mysterious locations, essentially Futurama deliveries in a 2.5D mobile experience.
I started working in my spare time on some prototypes and they were okay but the key to making an exploration game fun is the discovery element which meant a lot of art would be required and the game can’t be too linear.
I decided that I wanted a seed based randomly generated universe with a planetary map – similar to Starbound – so I started work on procedurally generated environments.
At the same time the entry to the 2015 Dare to be Digital competition was announced, but the format had changed over previous years.
This year you didn’t just have to pitch a game idea but needed a prototype too, and furthermore your prototype was allowed to be in development for the last six months!
I thought I’d have no chance with this new change but hoped that others like us would be caught off guard and therefore wouldn’t have anything too far into development.
There’s never any harm in applying, the worst that can happen is they say no.
So I contacted some friends who I knew would be interested in forming a team and we started work on our pitch video.
At this point we had two developers, one audio engineer and four artists.
Yep, four artists.
With the style of the game we thought this would be necessary in order to create enough assets.
Furthermore the other developer and I had full time jobs, but I didn’t let this deter me and I put all the time I could into development.
Doing more with what we had
Our early prototypes had little purpose to them and we wondered if we could do more with what we had.
We brainstormed a bunch of ideas and what we decided on was something environmental, so you would be drilling planets for their resources instead of simply delivering packages.
There are so many things you can then do once you have different resources you are farming.
Because we already had the seed based universe generation in place we looked at what more we could do with that and how we could make the game more social.
This led to the idea of a database of planet seeds with rewards for discovering and gaining ownership over each planet.
Similar to No Man’s Sky… Too similar to No Man’s Sky?
Around this time Hello Games provided more detail of how you could gather resources in No Man’s Sky and we started to look like a copy of their game.
We didn’t have much time left to submit our pitch so we acknowledged the similarities but identified our game as a smaller and mobile experience. We also needed a name which is when we changed to Deep Space Mine (aren’t we funny?)
We had to wait a month for feedback but when we got it, it was good news!
We were accepted and they liked our idea but worried about the scope of it as the finalists will showcase their game in under two months at ProtoPlay, the largest indie games festival in the UK.
An interview was scheduled at the BAFTA headquarters in London just a week or two down the line for us to show DSM in person. This is all great stuff right?
Well, not exactly. During that month we developed more, playtested more, and in short DSM simply wasn’t fun and we didn’t know how to make it fun.
This is when we did the best thing we could do and came up with a new idea. We changed DSM to what it is today, a competitive multiplayer simultaneous turn based strategy game.
http://www.indiedb.com/media/iframe/1354904 – How DSM first looked.
You can probably understand that we were a little nervous showing this to a panel of judges who were expecting a single player mobile game, but they loved it and we soon received feedback telling us we are finalists and we’ll be going to Scotland to showcase DSM to over ten thousand people!
Most important piece of advice?
The most important piece of advice I can give any developer is to try and understand what makes your game fun and don’t let your personal view of your game cloud that.
If you don’t think your own game is amazing, why should anyone else?
Our feedback detailed how acknowledging what was wrong with our game and showing what makes the new game fun is why we were put through.
So, what actually is Deep Space Mine? It’s a game of conquest. Both players are competing for control over a randomly generated planetary system.
As soon as a player owns the majority of planets in that system, they win.
To gain ownership over a planet you need to farm it for its minerals which involves a mini game – similar to Mass Effect’s probing – to determine how many minerals you get from that planet.
You then use those minerals in The Market. Players can buy and sell minerals they have mined just like stocks with the prices fluctuating depending on the players’ buying and selling behaviours.
Players then use those minerals to make drills so they can farm for more minerals. You can never see what your opponent is doing as they are doing it, but at the end of each turn the game status updates so you can see the new market prices and, more importantly, the new scores.
This keeps players second guessing their opponent’s moves when deciding on their own moves.
I quit my job as soon as I found out we were finalists and moved out of my flat too as I wouldn’t be able to afford to live there without a job.
I stayed with family and friends working on DSM full time for the next six weeks until the festival where accommodation was provided.
This is the first time we all worked in the same room together and we had just under a week to do some play testing with other finalists, make our last changes and set up our booth for the festival.
Advice from other’s shape the game you make
As part of the competition we were provided with the mentorship of some professionals who have been in the games industry for many years.
Through this we were told about how the festival has a large younger audience who may struggle to get into a strategy game with emergent strategies, so we turned our original prototype into a simple arcadey multiplayer game where two players pick up minerals being shot into the sky from a randomly generated planet.
This worked really well to let kids play a quick pick-up’n’play game keeping the queues down, but it turned out that people of all ages were getting into DSM really well and we even had two eight year old girls who came back to play DSM each of the four days and brought friends to teach them how to play! That was amazing for us to see.
The feedback we got from showcasing DSM at ProtoPlay was fantastic.
From having had maybe 10 people play the game to thousands is what has made the game into what it is now. The initial focus was for PC and Mac, but I’ve now added a focus for mobile and tablet with full cross-platform play. This is key to my goal of a board game style experience as DSM has taken from Settlers of Catan.
I am now developing the game by myself with assistance from the rest of the team in the form of play testing and feedback and we’re looking to release the game very soon.
Want more Indie Dev Diaries?
Why not check out our previous dev diary from Playback Interactive? If not then our next dev diary will be on the 14th October at 5pm GMT
Until then feel free to ask the above game dev any questions or help support them by checking out their progress on twitter